My dream of travelling the world started when I was aged about nine and attended The King Alfred School which had evacuated from London to Royston, Hertfordshire for the duration of the war. The school has a radical approach to education which encourages pupils to develop individuality and personal responsibility. Geography became my favourite subject with a particular love of maps, followed by history and art. Then, when I was eleven, my Geography master at Letchworth Grammar created a vision of travelling round the world by train across Europe to Moscow, then the Trans Siberian across Russia to Vladivostok and on to Vancouver to cross to Toronto on the Canadian Pacific. As a result the world was a fascinating place I wanted to see for mtself and created my life long ambition to travel. Now, either solo or with friends or partner, I’ve visited all the major continents. Originally staying relatively close to home with trips around much of Europe and the Mediterranean but since I retired in 1993, these have been extended to long haul, and exotic destinations.
My main interests were always in geographical features and historical sites associated with ancient civilisations and I’ve been fortunate to visit The Pyramids, Abu Simbel, The Nile and Luxor in Egypt; Great Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; Lake Titicaca and the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru; the Myan ruins of Uxmal and Chichen Itza, Mexico; The Grand Canyon, U.S.A; Niagara Falls, Canada; Uluru [Ayres Rock] and the vast Nullabor plain in Australia; The Kremlin, Russia; Samarkand, Uzbekistan; Taj Mahal, India and The Turfan Depression, Great Wall and Forbidden City in China.
My first opportunity however was enforced when I joined the Royal Air Force in 1952 for National Service and applied for an overseas posting. As a result I spent 21 months at Kasfareet alongside the Suez Canal in Egypt, but as it was classified as active service there were few chances to get off camp and see the many historical sites. There was however a Leave Camp in Famagusta, Cyprus where I stayed in the summer of 1954 and visited the Roman ruins at Salamis and the mountain top castle of St Hilarion.
After returning to England later that year my next chance to travel wasn’t until 1964 when I was part of a folk dance and song group from Chichester that represented England at the International Folk Music Festival in the ‘Sound of Music’ city of Salzburg, Austria. That was followed later the same year by a trip to another Folk Festival in Schoten, Belgium and two years later similar Festivals in Antwerp and Yvoir both again in Belgium
During 1966 I drove on an extensive camping holiday across Europe visiting Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Italy, Venice, Yugoslavia, and Austria then toured again in 1971 via Belgium, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece to Turkey - visiting Troy, Pergamon and Ephesus.
Late in 1972 I flew to Tunisia and explored the ancient site of Carthage and the Roman ruins of Dougga and Thuburbo Majus. In 1973 I was back driving across Europe, this time to Italy, where I visited Pisa, Rome and Pompeii. The following year, 1974, I was at Bad Harzburg in Germany as song tutor at a folk dance and song course and during 1976 and 77 made several visits to the historical university towns of Heidelberg and Tubingen, including singing at the Tubingen 1977 folk festival.
In 1978 I was holidaying in Southern Germany, in Stuttgart, and then in 1979 sailed across to Oslo in Norway to visit my friend the folk singer and fiddle player Duncan Wood. Later that year and again in 1980 I was singing at folk clubs in Aahus and Copenhagen, Denmark. 1981 I was touring and singing with two friends at folk clubs in Heidelberg and also went on holiday to Interlaken in Switzerland where I took a trip up the 11,330 feet Jungenfrau. In 1986 together with the Merrie England Mummers and a folk group from Heathfield in Sussex I went on an exchange visit to perform in Tauberbischofsheim in Germany.
Following on after these holidays came a series of trips to Germany. In 1989 and 90 it was to West Berlin. The first visit included a trip, via Checkpoint Charlie, to East Berlin, the second coincided with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and by the third visit The Wall had gone completely and I was able to stroll through a re-united city. During 1991/92 there were three visits to Osnabruck and in both 1993 and 94 Christmas was spent in Guttersloh.
Then, having retired from work at the end of 1993, came the long haul trips world wide usually with my partner as part of a tour group:
1994 - Russia, Uzbekistan and China: as part of a tour group I visited Moscow and toured the Kremlin before flying south to Tamerlane's ancient capital Samarkand to embark on a 3,200 mile train journey following the ancient ‘silk route’ from China. First we crossed Uzbekistan to Almaty the largest city in Kazakhstan then on to the Chinese border. From there to Turfan - renowned for its under ground wells and grape growing although situated in the Turfan Depresion over 500 feet below sea level with summer temperatures recorded as high as 1220 F. From there we visited the ruined city of Gaochang [c100 BC] and the Flaming Mountains. Then on to Dunhuang in the Gobi Desert and the Mogao Grottoes [caves] followed by Jiayuguan at the western end of the Great Wall. Next stop was Xian and the Terracotta Warriors. On then to Nanking, Wuxi - and a cruise along the Grand Canal to Suzhou - and finally Shanghai. From there a flight to Beijing to visit the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall at Badaling before flying south to Guilin with the spectacular mountains along the Li River. Another flight to Hong Kong completed my first visit to Asia.
1995 - Sweden & Finland and then India & Thailand: Early in the year we flew to Stockholm to visit friends and sailed over to Helsinki in Finland and soon after that took a short break in St Malo, France. Later with a group we flew to India to visit Delhi, Agra and the magnificent Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Amber before returning to Delhi for a flight to Thailand where sites visited included the ornate Royal Palace in Bangkok.
1996 - Egypt and Peru & the West Indies: Two more tour groups: In the early summer it was off to Africa to visit Egypt staying first in Luxor where we toured the ancient temples of both Luxor and Karnak and then visited the Valley of The Kings, including the tomb of Tutankhemen between a number of relaxing trips sailing on the Nile. This was followed by a flight north to Cairo and the Pyramids. In the autumn we flew west and down across the equator to Peru where we visited Arequipa and a trip via Colca Gate at 14,000ft to Colca Canyon - twice the depth of The Grand Canyon. From Arequipa there was a short flight to Juliaca then by coach to Puno. Whilst there we had a boat trip on Lake Titicaca [11,500 ft above sea level] and visited the fascinating 'floating islands'. Next by train through the Andes to Cusco and the ancient Inca sites of Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo and the awe inspiring Machu Picchu. On the way home we stopped off to lie in the sun on beaches of the Dutch West Indies isle of Aruba.
1997 - Zimbabwe and Egypt: Early in the year there was a return trip to Africa this time across the equator to Harae the capital of Zimbabwe. From there we visited Victoria Falls and a few days later the fascinating ancient African ruins at Great Zimbabwe. In the autumn a return to Egypt for another visit to Luxor and an excursion south to Abu Simbel.
1998 - U.S.A. & Australia. In the summer I was off on a solo trip to stay with my long time friend Richard Byford [Byway Entertainment] in Palm Springs, California, U.S.A. and a visit to the Grand Canyon. Then I flew west from LA across the international date line and equator to Australia and a trans continental train journey on the 'Indian Pacific' from Sydney through the vast Nullarbor Plain to Perth. From there I flew up to Alice Springs and made a safari trip out to Ayres Rock and The Olgas before catching the world famous 'Ghan' train south from Alice to Adelaide. Next a flight to Melbourne where, apart from sightseeing, I visited the MCG to watch an 'Aussie' Rules football match before catching a train back to Sydney for more sightseeing and a flight home, crossing the international date line the opposite way to London via Los Angeles.
1999 - Mexico. In the late summer I flew out with a tour group to the Yucatan area of Mexico to tour the ancient Myan sites of Chichen Itza, Uxmul and Tulum
2000 - Canada. During March I joined another tour group and flew to Canada to embark on another trans continental trip I had long wanted to make. First stop was Toronto and a visit to Niagara Falls then a train journey on 'The Canadian' across the continent via Winnipeg and Edmonton to Jasper in the Rocky Mountains. After a few days visiting the local sites and trying my hand at driving a dog sledge with a team of eight huskies I rejoined the train to Vancouver and a trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island before flying home via Chicago.
Among so many trips and sights there are of course a number of special memories and these are listed above left and illustrated with a range of personal photograph.
Travelling round the world today inevitably includes many, sometimes long haul, air flights but I’ve never forgotten my Geography teacher’s vision of going round the world by rail and riding trans continental trains remains my inspiration for travelling. It is not only the starting point for my memories but each journey provides a unique memory in itself of places passed through and people met.
Although ever since school days I’ve dreamt of making transcontinental train journeys my first long continental trip was in 1962 with the Chichester Folk Dance and Song Group mentioned earlier. A coach ride to Dover then ferry across to Oostend where we caught the overnight express across Belgium and Germany to Salzburg in Austria.
That served to increase my desire to travel by train which I finds is so much more relaxed with time to meet new people. There are no sudden time zone change of several hours instead maybe just one a day. By air you sit around an airport for hours, take off and a few hours later land possibly a thousand miles away having seen nothing of the countryside in between. By train you have a sleeping compartment with a bed, a dining room, a Club Car with bar and lounge and all at a relatively leisurely pace to view the passing scenery and talk with fellow passengers.
A trip across Russia by the Trans Siberian railway was a dream from schooldays geography lessons. Instead, but no less impressive was my second trip which was on a Russian charter train along part of the old silk route from the ancient city of Samarkand through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan via Almaty to the Chinese border then a change on to the Chinese Orient Express to Nanjing via Urumqi, Jiayuguan, Lanzho, Xian and Luoyang.
Russian train at Almaty
[above] :Luxurious dining car of the Russian train
Coffee break in the corridor of the Chinese train heading for Dunhuang
and Waiting in the compartment for Customs clearance at the Chinese boarder
My third opportunity for transcontinental travel was in 1998 when I visited Australia and took a trip on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth via Bathurst, Broken Hill and Adelaide, across the Nullabor Plain and Kalgoorlie:
Ready for boarding A single cabin for daytime… then converted for sleeping
Club Car [Lounge/bar] on The Indian Pacific
Later I travelled on the world famous Ghan from Alice Springs to Adelaide with a similar cabin and Club Car [Lounge/Bar]
The trip along the silk route from Uzbekistan to China has already been mentioned but the original ‘dream’ was to use the Trans Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok then across to Vancouver in Canada for the Canadian Pacific to Toronto and home across the Atlantic. Having compromised by travelling the Silk Route across Asia I did the other half of the ‘dream’ in reverse. My fourth long distant train journey was in 2000 when I travelled from Toronto to Vancouver on Via ‘The Canadian’ through Sioux Lookout, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper, Yellow Head Pass [through The Rockies] and Kamloops.